Not Fair

California Academy of Sciences

“Mommy, why does he get more than me?

“It’s not fair. He gets an extra turn.”

“Everyone else is going to get to be a helper more than me because I’m not in school this week. Not fair.”

“Not fair! He got more Valentine’s Day cards than me!”

“Why do they always get to go first? Why do they always get to choose? They get to choose more than me.”

That’s been the chorus echoing in our house lately, especially the last month or so – “It’s not fair.” Everything is tracked and tallied – from who got into/out of the bath first to who got to pick the TV show to how much cereal is in everyone’s bowl. The refrain grew louder while we were in California when he was around his cousins and witnessed different family rules and privileges.

My son is a counter, a keeper-tracker. That’s how his brain sees and organizes the world. But he has a tendency to focus on the things that he doesn’t have – that one missing subway car from his collection or the sticker that someone else received.

I get that this is how many children see the world and how they keep track of things. I get that this is normal. I also don’t deny the fact that my son can be the sweet kid, humble and thankful too. However, I don’t want him to constantly measure himself by what he doesn’t have. I want him to appreciate what he has – open arms instead of arms crossed across the chest.

Two ways to live your life

I also realize that his attitude may be a reflection of me and my actions. Cultivating gratitude is something that I struggle with and continue to work on every day. Sometimes it’s easier than others. Sometimes it’s more apparent than others.

Gratitude has been tied to many mental, physical and social benefits from improved immune system to better sleep to heart health to feelings of connectedness. I know that I feel better and am more calm when I focus on the positive versus the negative.

In order to cultivate gratitude in my children, I know that will be a combination of teaching lessons and actions as well as modeling behavior. I’ve talked a good game about how I’m going to be more grateful and live more intentionally this year but let’s be honest – I haven’t.

I want to develop this “attitude of gratitude” – for myself and for my kids. I want to create a gratitude jar with my kids. I know. I know. So many people talked about doing this at the start of the new year. I’m just about two months late to the game. I’ll also write down three things that I’m grateful for at the end of each day – big or small. From time to time, I’ll take this project public on my Facebook page (and I’m grateful for all of you who have liked my Facebook page), inspired by Danielle LaPorte.

What about you? How do you cultivate an attitude of gratitude? How do you encourage it in others?


{Linking up with Shell at Things I Can’t Say for Pour Your Heart Out}


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  1. says

    The “I wants” are big in my house. Especially my daughter. If her brother picks up a toy that she likes(but isn’t playing with), it’s all hell breaks loose until she gets it back. It’s her age but I also want her to not take for granted what she has. I don’t have a gratitude jar but the hubs and I have been listing a few things we are grateful for before bed each night. Maybe I need to start including the kiddos. It could be kind of fun to hear what they say – spiderman, Hello Kitty…:)
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  2. says

    One of the things my mom made me do every night growing up when we were sitting down for family dinner is come up with three things I was thankful for that day as well as one random act of kindness I did for someone else. It definitely helped me think of others a little more! It’s something I plan on continuing with my own children :)
    Madeline @ Food Fitness and Family recently posted..WIAWMy Profile

  3. says

    I love the idea of a gratitude jar with the kids. I think making sure kids have gratitude, and not a sense of entitlement, is one of the hardest things in our society of excess. I haven’t done as good a job as I would like to, but I am making sure that my oldest is involved in mission work and small good deeds via our church youth group. I also try to model gratitude for my kids–my youngest in particular can use this–she has a big case of the “not fairs,” quite often!

    I think you’re doing a great job!
    misszippy recently posted..Pull back the curtainMy Profile

  4. says

    The “I wants” and “It’s not fair” is huge in my house these days. It’s really frustratig, too. I am working on showing my kids that they shouldn’t take what they have for granted. It’s a slow and steady process.
    Natalie recently posted..LOCK LACES Product ReviewMy Profile

  5. says

    I think it’s important for E to see that not everyone is as fortunate as we are. At thanksgiving we took food to the Crisis Nursery and we plan to do it as many times during the year as possible. He may not get it but as he grows up, I want him to see that we have it pretty good and we should not only be grateful but we should give back.
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  6. says

    Gratitude is beautiful. It’s also more rare than it should be. I think we all fall into the habit of not seeing the forest through the trees (or however that saying goes lol) and losing sight of the bigger picture, of what’s truly important. I LOVE the idea of a gratitude jar…I should follow suit with you on this one, I’ve been trying VERY hard to live with gratitude first more often than not this year, and a jar would keep me accountable to that goal, for sure.
    Jess recently posted..The bottom line: sweatMy Profile

  7. says

    I love the idea of a gratitude jar! If (when) I have kiddies that will absolutely be one of the first things I incorporate into their little lives. Maybe it could become a family tradition with fun stuff associated to it like a weekly drawing out of the gratitude jar to talk about + movie time on a Saturday night w/popcorn and treats.
    Every week, even if I don’t write it down I reflect to see what I’m thankful for – a lot of blogs doing Thankful Thursdays definitely helps as a reminder 😉
    beka @ rebecca roams recently posted..Commitment IssuesMy Profile

  8. says

    I LOVE this – attitude of gratitude – similar to what I have on my mind lately and want to be cognizant of always. I love how you tied this back to the perspective you gain from your kids. You must ‘learn’ from them every single day, just as they learn from you!
    jobo recently posted..Affirmations.My Profile

  9. says

    I’ve been wrestling with these questions lately… how to cultivate the values and character in our daughter, especially when they can be so counter-cultural (more! bigger! better!) It doesn’t seem like there are any easy answers, but you have a great starting point! And I agree, modeling is key.
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..Cilantro Lime Fish TacosMy Profile

  10. says

    It is a tricky one isn’t it! Especially teaching it to your children! I have worked with kids a lot and whenever I have come across one that has that sense of gratitude it is truly wonderful and you always remember that kid! My parents took me to visit my Grandma in San Diego when I was 4 and we went across the border for a day to see Tijuana. The poverty was so shocking to me at that age. I remember seeing kids my size begging for money and food. Me and by bro and sis tried to divi up our pennies and share them with as many kids as possible. I was so devastated when we ran out of coins to give them- as it felt like hope. Anyway, kind of a full on way to indirectly teach gratitude but I have never forgotten or appreciated how well we lived!
    Jess recently posted..Taking care of youMy Profile


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